Saturday, 14 January 2017

A Long Day

Friday 30th September    I knew we were now going to tackle a remote section of the trail, crossing three mountain ranges and wide desert scrub areas with no guarantee of water on the way. In addition I had had difficulty loading a route onto my GPS and was going to have to rely on paper maps in strange country where we would be miles from help if anything went wrong.  I had anticipated that Lucy's 2WD vehicle would not be able to access this section and that our next rendezvous would be at Ruby Valley, about forty-five miles away.   So I was extremely grateful to elicit the help of Pony Express faithfuls  Wendy Anderson, Gino Okhart and Anthony Zamora, shown below in their alta egos as ghostriders Cat Balloo, Blackjack Frenchi and El Capitan..... 
 In this guise they scare tourists on the Nevada Northern Railway at Ely by galloping up on their horses, holding up the train and robbing passengers (by arrangement only of course).
They turned up early morning with Wendy's elderly horse on which Blackjack Frenchi (aka Gino) was going to guide me, while Cat Baloo (aka Wendy) drove support in Gino's horseless carriage (aka his 4WD SUV).   They were only able to spare the one day, but suggested Lucy drive round the mountains and tackle a sixteen mile dirt track up Long Valley Wash to meet us where the trail crossed.  El Capitan would go with her to show the way and provide moral support.  I had previously ruled out this meeting point as too risky for Lucy to try!   The next day I would be on my own, but would only have a fairly straightforward twenty mile ride to Ruby Valley where there was a good road and Lucy could meet me with the rig.  
 Posing with the Ghostriders of Ely - from left to right, Wendy, Gino, Anthony. They run this section of the Pony Express re-ride so are familiar with the trail.

Following Gino over the Cherry Creek Range on the Pony Express trail....
The mountains had become more wooded as we crossed into Nevada, the upper mountainsides covered with juniper and pinyon pine. The juniper is characterised by its opaque white berries, while at this time of year the pinyon pine cones are ready to be harvested of their little edible pine nuts.
Wild mustangs ...
They survive largely on bunchgrass such you see in the photo. It does not look particularly nourishing but is in fact highly nutritious. All the mustangs I saw were in good condition though of course this was at the end of the summer.  Unfortunately large parts of the USA have now been invaded by the aptly named cheat grass or drooping brome which was introduced from Europe. It has no nutritional value to speak of and takes over wherever the environment has been disturbed. I have encountered it all the way through the US, and a number of times have been attracted by what appeared to be a good supply of grass in someone's yard only to discover it was worse than useless cheat grass. 
 
Following the Pony Express Trail into Butte valley... 
The wind makes it difficult to hear Gino, but he was talking about a herd of lovely palamino mustangs that inhabit this valley.  The trail goes straight ahead to White Rock which can just be seen as a small white dot in the distance on the Butte Mountains. This is the location of Pony Springs on a more rugged and difficult route which was used in summer by the Pony Express. We would be following an easier route slightly to the left, past the site of Butte Pony Express station.  This was used by the Pony Express in the winter and by the Overland stage.
 
Wendy drove ahead, pulling the trailer through steep, rocky and muddy terrain, but unfortunately took the SUV straight up the impassable road towards Pony Springs. We rode over to check she was OK, and then cadged a lift back to the trail, an experience in itself for a tenderfoot like myself....
....just to make it clear, at this point Wendy's horse and Lady were in the trailer behind.   During the National Pony Express Re-ride the three ghostriders haul their horses to locations virtually inaccessible by vehicle, so this was perfectly normal for them.  Lady emerged unscathed and added another T shirt to her large collection.
 Gino and me by the ruins of Butte Pony Express station..
It sometimes happened that when I was not expecting to find traces of a station it was there, and so it was in this case.  Interestingly, although Burton arrived less than a week later in the year than I did, he reported that the road was six inches deep in snow.  By comparison Gino and I are in shirtsleeves, demonstrating the unpredictability of the climate here. 
 Burton gave quite a detailed description of the station, which was run by Welsh Mormon Mr Thomas, and consisted of a stone cabin thirty feet long by fifteen, with portholes on the long sides, and roofed with split cedar trunks. There was the usual corral for the horses and a dirty pool.  Inside the cabin was divided into two by a canvas partition, one part containing bunks and storage space with heaps of "rubbish, saddles, cloths, harness and straps, sacks of wheat, oats, meal and potatoes" and "dogs nestled where they found room"  The cabin floor was of untamped earth, and muddy where water had seeped through the wall at one point.  However Burton applauds the presence of a roaring fire in a large fireplace with a hook and iron oven, and they were fed comparatively well with "added meat to out supper of coffee and doughboy"
On the trail over a pass through the Butte Mountains
As evening draws in we come down to the track junction in Long Wash valley, and it looks as if Anthony and Lucy are waiting....
Anthony had encouraged Lucy through some rough and sticky patches along the lengthy dirt track to arrive safely at this forsaken spot. We were able to make camp before the galloping ghostriders left for home, not before Anthony warned us to get the rig out of there pronto if it started raining!   Many thanks  ghostriders - It was a memorable day riding a stretch I would have found it almost impossible to negotiate without your support!
Lucy and I settled down to a late supper to the distant strains of coyotes celebrating a kill.

A Dangerous Canyon

Heading along the Pony Express trail across Steptoe valley towards Egan Canyon on Thursday 29th September...
You can clearly see the canyon opening in the Egan Range straight ahead along the trail.
 
This peaceful little canyon was once one of the most notoriously dangerous sections of the trail during the 1860s. The narrow valley with its steep rocky sides was a perfect spot to be ambushed and trapped, and it witnessed many instances of violent encounters with hostile Indians.. 
Nick Wilson tells a tale of following a small emigrant train into the valley and finding the whole party including women and children massacred, apart from two men he passed running out of the canyon.  The mules and horses were gone.  These emigrants had been warned of the danger of travelling in a small party through this country, but mistakenly thought they were well armed enough to repel any attacks. 
 Howard Egan (most likely the younger Egan rather than his father Major Egan)came across a camp of Indians while riding through the canyon at night. He decided to use surprise tactics and 'run the gauntlet', galloping straight through the camp while firing his guns, and making a rapid exit on his fast pony. He later heard that the Indians had indeed planned to capture a rider, to find out what they were carrying with such urgency!
 
 An enigmatic sign by the side of the track..
What on earth would someone be doing with a rubber tub and red mat on a hillside in the desert, and more intriguingly what sort of person would choose to steal them?  Not the Indians this time methinks.
 
Egan Canyon Pony Express station was built where the canyon opens out, and was sited in the area of thick salt bush to the left of the creek in the photo below.  In the distance rise the Cherry Creek mountains.
The most notable event which occurred here was 'The Battle of Egan Station' of August 1860 when the station was attacked by a large number of Goshute warriors who overpowered the station master and another employee.  The Indians were apparently intending to burn both the station and the unfortunate pair, but in the meantime helped themselves to provisions and prepared to feast.  Fortuitously for the duo, a pony express rider happened to be nearing the station from the west, and realising it was under attack, galloped back and alerted a military column he had passed on the trail.  It was quite literally the cavalry to the rescue as Lieutenant Stephen Weed and his party of mounted riflemen arrived in the nick of time to save the intended victims.  Burton suggests seventeen Paiutes were killed in the ensuing battle, but Lieutenant Weed's report puts the number at only one.

When Burton passed through the canyon at the beginning of October, it was a bleak and threatening journey. Fires on the hillside warned of possible Indian attack, and they sped on at full speed to the end of the canyon to find that Egan's station "had been reduced to a chimney stack and a few charred posts".  The station had been burnt by Goshutes two or three days previously in revenge for the death of their warriors. "We could distinguish the pits from which the wolves had torn up the corpses, and one fellow's arm projected from the snow".  The station was subsequently rebuilt, and continued to serve as a Pony Express station and then as a stage station up to 1869.

We camped a little further on by Fort Pearce cemetery which contains the graves of several unidentified individuals.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Following the sheep

 I needed to organise a rendezvous point with Wendy Anderson, Gene Okhart and Antony Zamora of the NPEA who had kindly agreed to help me through the isolated stretch between Schellbourne and Ruby Valley. They were only available at the weekend and we were well within schedule so decided to take another day off and make use of Hank's phone and internet.
 Climbing up the eastern flank of the Schell Creek Range on Wednesday 28th September  we met up with a couple of Hank's Peruvian shepherds moving a large flock of sheep uphill to find pasture....  
Notice all the dogs - the black and white border collies are used to drive the sheep whereas the large white Pyranean Mountain dogs mingle with the herd - their job is to protect the sheep from predators such as coyote and cougar.  Hank told us he had in fact shot a cougar just below the ranch house.
At the top of Stage Canyon looking out across the Steptoe Valley to the Egan Range....
 A reminder of why the Pony Express ended.....
 ...the telegraph line also came this way.
Looking back up Stage Canyon to Schellbourne Pass. Chorpenning sited a stage station on the bench of land straight ahead (where Schellbourne Ranch is now located), and this became Schell Creek Pony Express station, although nothing remains from this period...
After the demise of the Pony Express, the Overland Mail took over the station and a small military post was also established to protect the route.  Following the discovery of silver nearby in the 1870s  this expanded into the little settlement of Schellbourne, butl the ore had ran out by 1885.
Burton noted about the station "Nothing could more want tidying than this log-hut, which showed the bullet marks of a recent Indian attack". so it seemed Nick Wilson could not escape trouble as this was his home station for a while! Attacks came on June 8th and August 29th 1860, but the details are confused as to whether stock was stolen or anyone killed.
It was from Schell Creek that Wilson carried the mail to Deep Creek one time to find his relief rider had not arrived. He had to ride on to Willow Creek (Callao) where he discovered the rider had been killed by Indians in the desert.
 
After a few hundred miles of wilderness, we were suddenly transported back into the twenty first century when we crossed Highway 93, with its stream of traffic hurtling along the Steptoe valley between Ely and Wendover.  Disappointingly the Schellbourne gas station and restaurant has been abandoned, so no beer and burger, but we found a sheltered spot to park the rig at the back where there was even a bit of cell phone reception!
There is still a parking area for semis (articulated lorries) and a rest stop here, though the warning against rattlesnakes on the rest room door might make one a tad reluctant to use it...

Dream on Lady...the spirit of the Pony Express haunts us....
....though I doubt my rather portly mount would be able to compete with the dashing young figure in the background.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

To the Wilderness...

  ...as the next leg was described by Burton.  On Sunday 25th September we set out into Nevada across "another grisly land, if possible more deplorable than before" (according to Burton), riding across the Antelope Valley towards the Antelope Range (not the Spring valley range as I mistakenly say)...
On the current maps Prairie Gate is marked several miles further along the road from Eight Mile, but older accounts (eg Howard Egan) apply both these names to the same Pony Express station.
We had been following the line of the Pony Express trail as well as the old Lincoln Highway, but at the current Prairie Gate the Pony Express trail strikes out in a more direct line across the sage brush desert to the left towards Antelope Springs.  The main reason we were not able to take this more direct route was that we were now riding through the Goshute Indian reservation, and the land on either side of the Lincoln Highway here is restricted Indian land which must be respected.
 
The Goshute are a small tribe now numbering well under a thousand.  They are related to the Shoshone, and traditionally inhabited the area west of Salt Lake City westwards to the Egan range, in other words, the area we had been travelling through.  They are now divided between this reservation and another in Skull valley to the southwest of Salt Lake City (near the Dugway Proving Ground).
 Trying to survive in such a barren region originally meant living at a minimum subsistence level on wild vegetables, seeds (particularly pinyon pine nuts), insects and small desert mammals and reptiles, as well as larger animals such as coyote and deer when available. They wintered in the well watered Deep Creek valley.   It was thus not surprising that tensions grew when Mormons moved into the area and their domestic livestock competed for the limited resources. This contributed to the Indian troubles which have already been referred to. The Goshutes were brought under control and forced to sign a treaty in 1863 which allowed for the incursion of whites into their tribal lands.
The present reservation was established in 1912 on just over 122,000 acres, and some of the Goshutes that remain farm cattle and grow hay on better land near Deep Creek. 
 
Leaving the Goshute reservation, and you can see the boundary signs with dire warnings concerning the penalties for trespassing or poaching on Indian land - "to the full extent of tribal law including confiscating vehicles and equipment"!...... 
We stayed on the straight and narrow and emerged with vehicle and equipment intact, not that that any of the threatened patrols were evident. 
Far from the Madding Crowd - our remote camp spot at Antelope Springs at the foot of the Antelope Range, here looking east to the Deep Creek Range - we didn't see a car all day ...
The  small pond shown here is just below the springs and pile of stones which mark the site of the former Pony Express station......
The station was originally built as a stage stop by Chorpenning in 1859.  It later served the Pony Express, though it was burnt down by the Goshutes in June 1860 though the inmates escaped.  It was subsequently rebuilt.   Reportedly quite a large band of mustangs roam the area near the springs, but we saw neither hide nor hair of them.
Monday 26th September.  I had intended to follow the Pony Express trail over the Antelope hills through Rock Springs Pass to Spring Valley, but Lucy was struggling a little with map directions, so I decided to play safe and follow the road around the southern spur of the hills and through Twelve Mile Pass.  This in fact was a route used by the Pony Express during the winter, although I doubt it was as scenic as the mountain route.  My new Canon camera seems to have a mind of its own, and I sometimes find it has mysteriously employed video or special effects, though in this case it gave a suitably bleak and wintery effect to the Antelope Valley road heading towards the low pass..... 
There were two Pony Express stations in the Spring Valley area, though nothing remains and Burton does not mention either.  Rock Springs station is thought to have been on the shorter summer route over the Antelope Range.  Spring Valley station was on the longer winter route that we were following.  Riding down into Spring Valley we came to Stonehouse, where there is unsurprisingly an old stone house.  It dates from after the time of the Pony Express, but the Overland Mail had a station somewhere here which may also have been used by the Pony Express after July 1861.  This was sited in the vicinity of the photo below..
If this is truly the site of the station, this is also the setting for another Indian attack which almost cost the life of Pony Express rider Nick Wilson, the same rider who defended Eight Mile station.
 
 Elijah Nicholas Wilson was one of the more fascinating characters in the history of the Pony Express.  Emigrating to Utah in 1850 with his Mormon family, as an eleven year old boy he ran away to live with the Shoshone Indians for two years, initially tempted by the promise of a pretty pinto pony which he was allowed to keep when he returned to his white family.  He was fluent in the Shoshone and Goshute languages, and thus later in demand as an interpreter and guide. While with the Shoshone he became an accomplished wild horse tamer, and Dr Faust subsequently persuaded him to become a pony express rider. He rode parts of the route between Ruby Valley and Deep Creek, as well as between Carson Sink and Fort Churchill, experiencing many adventures which as 'Uncle Nick' he recounted to rapt young listeners in later life. (See his autobiography White Indian Boy).
 
On this occasion he had stopped for lunch at the station when he saw a couple of Indians making off with the horses. In chasing after them he was shot above the eye with a arrow and left for dead by the station boys. Realising he was still alive the next day, they called for a doctor who removed the flint arrowhead but did little else. It was only when Major Egan discovered him still alive six days later that the doctor made an increased effort, and after another eighteen days Wilson came out of a coma and began to make progress. He was eventually back in the saddle, though he continued to suffer from the effects of his wound.   After the end of the Pony Express, he became an experienced stage coach driver, before settling near Jackson Hole in Wyoming where he pioneered the settlement which became known as Wilson.
 
 I had identified a ranch in Spring Valley that I hoped was still occupied and where we might find water and be able to camp for the night.  Lucy drove on ahead and I was delighted when she returned with sheep rancher Hank Vogler bearing very welcome cool refreshment!
On arrival at the Vogler Ranch Lady was ushered into a spacious corral and was soon tucking into feed and hay...
 ..while Hank invited us in for shower, dinner and wine -  I was able to parade my equine traveller's version of 'glamming up' for the occasion, complete with elegant footwear fit for Cinderella...
...cannot believe I managed to have my eyes closed in both the photos Lucy took. 
 
Some people are most impressed when I mention we used to keep around 500 ewes on our farm at home in Wales, but next to the 10,000 sheep Hank runs on his ranch we seem like small fry in comparison!  They are mainly Rambouillet merino sheep, a breed I was not previously familiar with, but which were first introduced to America from France in 1840.  A dual purpose wool/meat breed, developed from Spanish merino, they are well suited to the dry conditions of the American west. 
 
Thrice married Hank is a larger than life character with a wealth of knowledge, and not slow to express his opinions on a variety of subjects. His latest squeeze is a very beautiful Chinese lady (we saw the photos) he quite literally bumped into in the supermarket in Elko. She broke her eggs, he paid for her grocery and they soon became an item.  Fortunately for her she was back in China visiting her family, so did not have to suffer my appalling attempts at Chinese, but it was a pity to miss her.
Hank counts himself very lucky to be alive as he has recently survived major surgery from which he was not expected to recover, but I am sure it was his indomitable spirit which pulled him through.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Into Nevada

Saturday 24th September     Burton wrote "Descending the western watershed, we sighted, in Deep-Creek Valley, St Mary's County, the first patch of cultivation since leaving Great Salt Lake." and continues " fields extend about one mile from each bank, and the rest of the yellow bottom is a tapestry of wire grass and wheat grass"  The photo below shows the valley with the Deep Creek Range behind.  The clumps of trees mark the position of the little settlement of Ibapah (pronounced Eye-ber-paw which is Goshute for 'deep water') where Deep Creek Pony Express station was located and where we were headed .....
The Pony Express trail heads across the sage brush in the background.
The present buildings at Ibapah do not date from Pony Express days, but cattle are still raised on grassy meadows near the creek
 
 By the Pony Express Monument for Deep Creek Pony Express station just to the south of Ibapah....
 Burton reports that the station was dirty and fly ridden, but remarked once again on the hospitality of their Mormon hosts "they supplied us with excellent potatoes and told us to make their house our home" and stressed that the lack of housekeeping was "not Mormon, but Western".

Some mention has already been made of Major Howard Egan, who was a notable figure on this section of the Pony Express Trail, and it is worth recounting a little of his background. He lived here at Deep Creek on a ranch and mail station he established in 1859 about three miles north of the current Pony Express monument.  Born in Ireland, he gained his title of Major in the Mormon Nauvoo Legion, and came to Utah in 1847 with the initial Mormon pioneers as a guide and bodyguard to Brigham Young. After working on Chorpenning's Jackass Mail service to California, he was hired by Russell, Majors and Waddell.
He explored much of the Central route to California before Simpson's official survey, and as a local resident with a working knowledge of the trail he was a natural choice for Division Superintendent of the Pony Express service between Salt Lake City to Carson City.  After the Pony Express folded, he continued to work for the Overland Mail until it was replaced by the transcontinental railway in 1869.

Two of Egan's sons, Howard Ransom Egan and Richard Erastus 'Ras' Egan, were Pony Express riders, and Howard himself famously took part in the first run when the rider was not in place at Rush Valley (Faust). Taking over the ride to Salt Lake City in a storm, his pony fell off a plank bridge into Mill Creek en route, but Egan recovered and continued, to hand on the mochila successfully!

Leaving Ibapah, we were now nearing Nevada...
...and it was not long before we crossed the border and reached our days' destination of Eight Mile Springs, so called because it was eight miles from Deep Creek.
Burton makes no mention of a station here, but Pony Express rider Nick Wilson describes " a rock building, twelve by twenty, with a shed roof covered with earth so that no timbers were sticking out that the Indians could set fire to. It had portholes in each end of the building and one on each side of the door in front". Just as well, for when he rode up to take over the mail on one occasion, he saw the incoming rider being ambushed and shot by Indians. Wilson was holed up here for three days under intermittent attack until rescued by soldiers. In the house with him were three horses (!) and a couple of orphaned emigrant boys who had ended up stranded and in charge of the station after the station master absconded. Luckily there was water in the cellar which kept them all alive though it was "not a bit good".  
 
A rather cramped camp spot at a junction by the creek at Eightmile, but at least there was a little grass for Lady..
..while Lucy and I were able to celebrate crossing into Nevada with a glass of wine and nibbles....
..followed by supper which Lucy is drumming up in the background.  The advantages of travelling in style!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Callao

Wednesday 21st September  Riding into Callao on the old Pony Express Trail..
After several days tramping through the hot desert, it was delightful to reach this well watered oasis with its green alfalfa fields, tall ancient cottonwoods and the leafy willows which gave Willow Springs Pony Express station its name. 
A sign displaying the names and locations of the residents as you come into town!........
   We ended up finding a corral and a place to park the rig with the Timms family (second label down on the right) who included Derek and Cindy, and sons Trevor and Devon.

 The monument for Willow Springs Pony Express station, which is located down the driveway on the Bagley Ranch... 
 The station accommodation did not appear to be have been very salubrious, as Burton stated "nothing could be fouler than the log hut; the flies soon drove us out of doors". However "hospitality, was not wanting, and we sat down to salt beef and bacon, for which we were not allowed to pay".

You may just be able to see Lady in her sheltered corral at the Timms Ranch....
 We initially parked the rig on the right, but a real gale got up later in the day so we moved away from the huge old cottonwood trees to park by the cattle pens at the back, just in case! Thunderstorms came in overnight and it continued to rain on Thursday 22nd September, so it turned out to be a good time to take the planned day off to re-stock with supplies (propane, gas, food etc) at the nearest sizeable town of Wendover, eighty miles away.  Internet access and phone reception had been very erratic or non-existent as we travelled away from civilisation, so it was also a vital opportunity to contact and confirm plans with some of the NPEA members who had kindly consented to help out further west in Nevada.


The Timms run about 250 cattle on their property...
..but this strange beast is actually a dummy steer to practise roping...
 Derek Timms is the fifth generation to farm in Callao and their land was bought by an ancestor from the renowned Howard Egan. Derek is also descended from Boyd of Boyds station.

It was a cold damp start to Friday 23rd September as we set off towards Ibapah, and snow was settling on the Deep Creek mountains to the west.  I had hoped to stop for a lunch break at the site of Canyon  station at the mouth of the narrow Overland Pass, but it was so bleak and windy that after a quick rain drenched photo opportunity we moved on.....
The photo shows Round station, which was a fortified building built in 1863 after the demise of the Pony Express.  It replaced previous Canyon stations which had been burnt by Indians, one of them three miles to the west of this point in Overland Canyon. Through the rain and to the right in the background you can see the start of the canyon, a narrow valley about nine miles long through which Pony Express riders had to run the gauntlet.. "Nothing, certainly, could be better fitted for an ambuscade than this gorge, with its caves and holes in snow-cuts, earth-drops, and lines of strata, like walls of rudely piled stone" wrote Burton, who was shown a point where one rider was badly wounded and lost his horse.

We pressed miserably on through the wet and cold, but I managed to get a photo of the Pony Express monument for Burnt Station across the dry stream gully at the other end of the canyon..
The station site was a few hundred yards further west, or in the right hand background of the photo. The station apparently consisted of a log house and stable, and a dugout where meals were cooked and served.  It was originally called Canyon station, but acquired its current name after the Pony Express had ended, when it was burnt in an Indian attack in 1863 in revenge for the massacre of a camp of Indians including women and children.  All the inhabitants of the station were killed; five Overland stage employees and two soldiers.
 
The sleet started to clear, and Lucy found a rather exposed camp spot a couple of miles further on by Skinner Spring, where there was a long trough of clear running water. It was bitterly cold with a cutting wind, so to give Lady some protection we put up the corral on the lee side of the rig and Lucy dug out a waterproof rug.
Our camp spot with a scenic backdrop of the snow sprinkled Deep Creek mountains.
 Amazing to think that only a three or four days previously we had been riding in temperatures of nearly 100F!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Pintails and Paiutes

Sunday 18th September . A short ride of about ten miles brought us to Fish Springs, at the foot of the Fish Springs Range, a green oasis in the middle of salt flats and bare hills......
This is now a National Wildlife Refuge.   A wetland area fed by groundwater, the Refuge is particularly vital for a wide range of migratory birds which nest and rest here. Some of the maintained ponds take their names from the 300 or so species of feathered visitor - pintail, egret, shovellor, mallard, avocet and gadwall, the last being a dabbling duck I had never heard of before.
It turned into a boiling hot day with temperatures of around 100C, so we were grateful to find a shady spot to camp and while away the afternoon beneath some trees at the Refuge Centre were there is a small cluster of buildings...
..and we were especially privileged to be allowed use of a shower later in the empty bunkhouse, thanks to the  very friendly and chatty refuge manager Brian Allen, shown here with assistant Corey...
Brian's young and enthusiastic chocolate Labrador has the appropriate avian name of Widgeon.   Having had got over her initial inconvenient aversion to both water and feathers, she is now turning into a useful working bird dog! 
The site of the Pony Express station is thought to be a mile further north where the Thomas ranch once stood - now there is only a picnic site in a stand of trees.   In 1959, Chorpenning built a thatched shed to serve as mail and water stop, though by the time the Pony Express came through it seems there was a more substantial building - Burton describes arriving in the cold to a roaring fire, supper and bed.
The Fish Springs Pony Express monument is positioned further up the hill along the Pony Express Road, and making an early start to beat the heat on Monday 19th September, Lady and I stopped there as we left the Centre ...
The view from the monument looks out over the Refuge wetlands with its ponds glinting in the morning light, and across to the Dugway Range on the horizon. You can just see the small stand of trees which marks the former site of the Pony Express station.  The old trail ran this way at the foot of the Fish Springs range which rises up behind.  The Pony Express Road continues north round the end of the range, but from this point there is also a short-cut going straight over the hills to the west, now through private land.  

I have already touched upon Indian attack, and we were now well into a section of the Pony Express Trail which was all but shut down in 1860 due to the Paiute War. This started  in May 1860, shortly after the start of the Pony Express service, and was sparked off by the abduction of two young Paiute girls in western Nevada by white men.  Starting in the west and spreading east as far as Faust, Pony Express stations were attacked and burnt, and station keepers (who were like sitting ducks) killed. Lookout Pass and the intervening stations between Simpsons and Fish Springs were all abandoned and/or burnt at some time during these troubles, Though only one rider is reported to have lost his life, several had narrow escapes. Rider Nick Wilson recounted how he was ambushed near Fish Springs where the swamp came close to a cedar covered rocky point which provided cover for Indians. If he had not also stated that it was on the run east from Fish Springs, I would have hazarded a guess that it could have been at this point heading west on the Pony Express Road, although now there is a notable lack of cedar in the whole area...
 Somewhere before here at the start of October 1860 Burton met a party of ten wagons and ninety dragoons commanded by Lieutenant Weed and two officers, indulged in some more 'liquoring up' and "after American fashion, talked politics in the wilderness".. Since the start of the troubles this party had been engaged in dealing with the "Gosh Yutas" or Goshute Indians, a locally based branch of the Ute peoples.
Rounding the end of the Fish Springs Range...
..straight ahead lies the Deep Creek Range, at the eastern base of which lies Callao and the site of Willow Springs Pony Express station.  Past the rock promontory the trail swings in a southward loop to circumvent the worst of the Snake River valley alkali salt flat which Burton described as a "wet and oozy plain, in which the mules often sank to their fetlock".  The track we were following here made easy travelling in the dry conditions we were experiencing, but in Burton's words "After heavy showers it becomes a soft, slippery, tenacious and slushy mud, that renders travelling laborious".
We camped for the night at the former site of Boyds Pony Express station, where a stone ruin still remains. This view is looking east to the Fish Spring Range, and you can see the outcrop of rock which can be seen clearly across the Snake River valley plain and acts as a distinctive guiding landmark for Boyds...
The building was constructed around 1855 by George Washington Boyd who lived here for around forty years and served as station keeper.   Interesting features are the gunports (now collapsed) one being directly in line with the rock outcrop.  There was a spring nearby which supplied very brackish water - this may be just to the east where we passed a scrubby area of mesquite trees.